'Pirates' takes most U.K. booty

Tops '06 boxoffice with $102.9 mil; 'Royale' strong at No. 2

LONDON -- The No. 1 boxoffice draw in the U.K. for 2006 looks set to be Buena Vista International's release of "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," which swashbuckled its way to a whopping £52.5 million ($102.9 million).

BVI's pirate tale is likely to remain untouched as the year's lead draw as 2006 comes to a close, according to figures through Dec. 21 obtained from Nielsen EDI.

There is an outside chance that Sony Pictures' "Casino Royale," currently in second with £44.6 million ($87.4 million), could squeeze past it. The latest installment in the Bond franchise could yet surpass "Pirates" if it takes £8 million ($15.7 million) by the turn of the year.

Sony also garnered £30.4 million ($59.6 million) and third place honors for the much-anticipated adaptation of Dan Brown's hit novel "The Da Vinci Code."

A fake reporter with a funny mustache, a cartoon triumvirate of extinct animals and a band of mutants have given 20th Century Fox a warm boxoffice glow. The U.K. distribution arm of 20th Century Fox has four titles in the top ten for the year.

"Ice Age: The Meltdown" slid its way to £29.5 million ($57.8 million), "Borat" said howdy to £23.7 million ($46.5 million) while "X-Men: The Last Stand" battled to £19.1 million ($37.4 million) for Fox, taking the fourth, fifth and sixth spots, respectively, to date.

Fox's "The Devil Wears Prada" rounds out the top ten, sashaying its way to £13.9 million ($27.2 million) and with "Night at the Museum" set for a Fox release here on Boxing Day (Dec. 26), the studio's four-strong showing in the Top 10 looks safe.

The only other release that might offer a challenge to "Prada" for the 10th spot is Warner Bros.' "Flags of Our Fathers." The Clint Eastwood WWII drama opens Dec. 22 but would need a huge first weekend to grab a space in the 2006 top ten.

The four Fox movies have tallied a total of £86.2 million ($168.9 million) for the studio here, according to figures obtained from Nielsen EDI, giving the studio the highest cumulative tally for its top ten entries.

BVI also saw animated road movie "Cars" steer its way to seventh place and £16.4 million ($32.1 million) for the Disney-owned U.K. distribution arm. BVI's cume for its pair of top ten pics currently stands at £68.9 million ($135 million).

Both Warner Brothers and United International Pictures managed one film apiece in the U.K. boxoffice top ten for 2006. Warners flew "Superman Returns" into eighth place, securing £16.1 million ($31.6 million) for the superhero yarn.

And in its last year as the joint distribution arm for Universal and Paramount, United International Pictures posted one top ten position as "Mission: Impossible 3" took ninth with £15.5 million ($30.4 million) at the U.K. boxoffice.

Analysts will have to wait until the year ends before a winner can be announced for the overall distributor's top ten as the myriad of releases across 2006 from each are tallied up early in the new year.